Accidents involving fatigued drivers killed about 5,000 road users in New Jersey and around the country in 2015 according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Efforts designed to reduce this death toll have mainly focused on warning the public about the dangers of drowsy driving, but the problem persists. About half of the American drivers surveyed recently by the National Sleep Foundation admitted to regularly getting behind the wheel while dangerously tired, and a worrying one in five drivers told researchers that they had fallen asleep while on the road at least once during the previous 12 months.
Sleep deprivation affects motorists in much the same way that alcohol does. Just a few lost hours of rest can slow reaction times and make focusing on the road ahead more difficult; going without sleep for 20 hours impairs a motorist as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08%. This is why drowsy drivers are about three times more likely to crash. Determining whether a driver was fatigued when they lost control of their vehicle is not always easy for accident investigators, which is why most road safety advocacy groups believe that the problem is greatly underreported.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration puts the number of drowsy driving accidents each year at about 100,000, but researchers from the American Automobile Association believe that the actual figure is more than 300,000. According to the AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, road accidents caused by fatigue injure over 100,000 people each year and cost the economy more than $100 billion.
One of the problems facing auto accident investigators is that drowsy drivers tend to become more alert after crashing, and fatigue also leaves no tell-tale clues. If a person was injured in a traffic accident and the driver responsible may have been impaired by fatigue, an experienced personal injury attorney may seek to have the vehicle involved inspected by a professional. This is because many modern vehicles are fitted with data recorders that might reveal how fast they were traveling prior to a collision and whether drivers took emergency action.